Whatever you thought, you’re right.
In their new book The New I Do
, Sonoma-based marriage counselor Susan Pease Gadoua and San Francisco-based journalist Vicki Larson explore the different forms that marriage can take.
“Marriages don’t have to look a certain way,” says Larson. “When you get a marriage license, all it says is you’re married. It doesn’t say you have to be monogamous, it doesn’t say you live together, it doesn’t say you have children. You get to make it up.”
Gadoua adds, “When I was single and had never been married, some people were like, what's wrong with you, why are you not married? I wondered why there are only these options: if I’m not married there's something wrong with me, and if I have to get a divorce, there’s something wrong with me."
In preparation for their book — Larson’s first and Gadoua’s third — they researched different ways to “be married" by surveying many different couples, both those who are “traditionally” married and those living “alternative” lifestyles, as well as they investigated various studies about what it means to be married.
“We looked at sociological studies that were already out there and read a lot of books by other people about the history of marriage, how it has changed and how it is different around the world,” says Larson.
Published in September 2014, The New I Do
has been getting a lot of attention, mostly positive.
“I’ve had this book idea for 12 years, and it kept getting rejected. But for the most part, readers have been extremely receptive. People are hungry for this,” says Gadoua. However, she also adds that “there is some resistance, because people are adamant that what we are writing about isn’t what marriage is.”
Gadoua was inspired to write the book because of her own experiences with divorce, as well as observations she made of her clients.
“One of the things I kept seeing over and over is people who were facing a divorce would come in and say that they felt like failtures. It bothered me because in most cases, it was not a failure, they had just grown apart,” says Gadoua. “We have such a shame-based model in society that these people were feeling ashamed.”
Larson wanted readers to know that The New I Do
is not an advice book and does not tell readers how to live, but instead, encourages them to figure it out for themselves.
“We talk about the pros and cons of the marital models that people we interviewed told us abou, and we provide questions that people can ask themselves to figure out if that really is the kind of marriage they want to have. We want people to really question themselves,” says Larson. “If you could invent marriage from the beginning, what would you want it to look like?”
Well, what do you think it would look like?
If you want to meet and talk to the authors about marriage, there will be a book reading and signing at Pleasures of the Heart (1310 Fourth St., San Rafael) on December 4 from 7-9. Admission is $10.
Quick! What's the first thing you think of when someone asks you to define "marriage"?